writing a problem statement

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Brainstorming and coming up with ideas is stimulating and satisfying. The satisfaction comes from finding good workable solutions to problems. Therefore defining the problem clearly upfront can be a real aid to the idea creation and problem solving that follows.

(See further down the page for a free downloadable problem statement template)

Defining a problem with a Problem Statement is common on academic circles and within TQM and Six Sigma methodologies. For Brainstorming however we need something shorter and simpler.

I’ve had a quick look for a problem statement template specifically for brainstorming. I didn’t find one but did come across some themes that I’ve pulled together into the following process.

The first step is to write down your problem or the current state. Don’t worry too much about quality at this point – simply making a start is significant. Next, expand on your problem by asking the following questions:

  • who does it affect / does not affect.
  • what does it effect / does not affect.
  • how does it effect / does not affect.
  • when is it a problem / is not a problem.
  • where is it a problem / is not a problem.

Now, re-write your problem statement based on those answers.


The Second step is the same as the first, but focuses on the Desired or Future State.

The Third Step is to combine your revised Problem or Current State and your desired Future State into a single statement. This might take a couple of attempts but stick with it. Finally, review your new problem statement against the following criteria:

  • Focused on only one Problem.
  • One or two sentences long.
  • Does not suggest a Solution.

You should now have a concise and well balanced Problem Statement ready for a brainstorming session. It should be unambiguous and devoid of assumptions. It will enable you or your group to focus in on the problem and work toward solutions that truly fit.

Try it yourself –

Download a Problem Statement workbook by clicking the download icon below:

Download Writing a Problem Statement - Workbook Version 1.0

The following diagram outlines the process:

Here’s some other Problem Solving resources:

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86 Responses to “writing a problem statement”

  1. Steve Swann April 28, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    Good luck with you Project Gigi

  2. Steve Swann April 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    Hope you do well in your enrollment test

  3. Steve Swann April 28, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Thanks John – nothing wrong with being picky, appreciate the edit. Will fix.

  4. temesgen May 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    The idea what I read is very nice and surprising but it is too short to complete all these idea in one or two sentences. To me it may be clear if you give an example. would you mind to replay for the following problem?
    Many people in some society drop their solid wastes on the road.

  5. sadaf May 13, 2011 at 3:36 am #

    idea was nice and great

  6. sadiq May 18, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    sadiq
    splendid steven.
    thanx

  7. James June 8, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Wow. I’m taking a research class for nursing and am having issues with writing a problem statement. I already have a general topic in mind, but this helped me narrow my focus, generate some new ideas, and definately helped with writing my statement. Thank you so much for putting your ideas here, my grade will be in part to you. For anyone wanting to know how to write a problem statement, this is the most effective way I’ve seen on how to do it.

  8. feddy June 15, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    well done Stave you really helped me ,thanks

  9. Joana June 20, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    can you give example statement of the problem for this title? employment chances of hotel and restaurant management graduates?

  10. nisa mirza June 28, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    hi steve,
    great work u r doing. many thanks. i need all to help me evaluate my problem statment for PhD.
    My topic is : ‘ CPD(continuing professional development) in pakistan, is it looking for new direction? ‘
    i need ur advice and from my peers on my topic. is there anything wrong in writing my problem statement this way? i will be looking for maximum input from all.
    thanks

  11. Iwaotan Akinwunmi July 1, 2011 at 3:56 am #

    hi, i’m new on dis site and i’m to write a Phd research proposal on “design and construction of an electronic power meter”. The problem statement I intend to write goes …The electromechanical wattmeter is expensive and is physically large therefore a need for an electronic wattmeter becomes necessary. I need to know if this is okay.
    Thanks

  12. L Njehia July 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    I found it very useful for my proposal. please give example to clarify on who, what, when, where and how

  13. maklu nanteer July 8, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    journals/articles on assessment of enterprenuer value creation activities and economic growth

  14. Hensly July 20, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Wow never new that such weird questions could be found thank Google for such making sure that everything a person want get keep up the good work of having every ditail about anything LOVE IT

  15. alvin August 2, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    can you do a problem statement in mang inasal?

  16. RADIN September 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    thank you for the detail and it is a great help for our study..

  17. gilda September 26, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    what is a statement for a causality relationship between income and health expenditure

  18. ahmed September 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Thnks for helping the student for prepering problem statment but i fill some thing about my proplem towads rimittance and economic development in somalia thnks

  19. arjie October 2, 2011 at 12:05 am #

    Thanks for this. It enhances my paper work

  20. Prisca Umeobi October 2, 2011 at 3:53 am #

    Great work! How did you do it? keep it up. Could you add more examples focusing on prevalence study.

  21. glory October 9, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    kindly help me to write 3 problem statements as i am doing my msc nursing reasearch ifind much difficult in writing the problem statements.

  22. Nxongo Lepekola October 11, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    Can you give me an example for this topic,Likely Impacts of the Health sector development on the Community.

  23. Metha November 2, 2011 at 7:50 am #

    kindly help me to write 4 problem statements as i am doing my PBBsc nursing reasearch ifind much difficult in writing the problem statements.

  24. Ken November 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    I am writing a problem statement for my company email box issue, really thanks for your sharing!!!!

  25. Jenifer November 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  26. Steve Swann November 24, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Jennifer

    thank you very much for taking the time to comment and your kind words. I hope your Facebook groups find it useful too.

  27. Steve Swann November 24, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Ken – good luck solving your company email box issue. You’re not alone with that particular issue.

  28. smith February 25, 2012 at 5:39 am #

    I was confused on how to write the problem statement to my research,bt now it is now clear.thankz

  29. Dave March 9, 2012 at 1:02 am #

    Am greatful for learning how to write problem statment. U r the best.

  30. Chigozie johnson April 28, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    .Good. Day..am writing my final year project..i need guildline 2 write the statement of problem..TIttle ThE INFLUENCE OF ADVERTISING ON STUDENT DRESSING HABIT.

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